Quarantine, Regret, and the Gospel

I’ve come to the difficult conclusion that I’m not happy with my response to the “quarantime” that began in March.

It’s difficult because it’s always difficult to admit that you’re wrong. It’s doubly difficult because it’s done; there’s no fixing it or trying again next time. Lord willing, there will never be another such event in my lifetime. 

So what do I do with these regrets and feelings of failure? What Christians should always do, in any situation—run to Jesus. 

Regretting Sinful Attitudes

I regret spending so much time being angry. I was angry at the virus for existing, angry at the government for restricting me, angry that I had to wear a mask, angry at people for wearing their masks wrong, angry that my son’s newborn months were stolen, angry at other people for not reacting how I thought they should.

This regret is hard because I have to label it what it is: It’s sin. I sinned.

My anger is a sin against God, a challenge to his goodness and wisdom. It has also hurt those around me, both those on the receiving end and those who I’ve inflicted my anger upon by dwelling on it in conversation. 

The solution is repeated throughout the Scriptures: Repent. “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13b; see also 1 John 1:9).

For me, repentance has looked like making apologies and seeking reconciliation. It’s been praying for a more content and gracious heart. And it’s been praying for the Spirit to “see if there be any grievous way in me” (Psalm 139:24). 

Guys, it hurts. I hoped I could say, “I was angry and I’m sorry,” and be done with it, but my anger was just the shoot springing up from a root system of sinful attitudes that are still being exposed. 

This is the gospel: That when I was still angry, Christ died for me. That when I confess, he will forgive—and that he has given me his Spirit to convict me of my sin, drive me again to the cross, and empower me to live rightly. 

Regretting Missed Opportunities

I also regret not mobilizing to help my neighbors. I didn’t inquire whether my elderly neighbors needed groceries, didn’t seek out ways to help the needy, didn’t reach out to people in my own church family to ask how they were doing. I wish I had been Christ’s hands and feet to those outside my home, but I wasn’t.

Maybe you’re like me, and you feel the weight of missed opportunities. You didn’t help that person, didn’t finish that project, didn’t take that online course or master a new hobby during self-isolation. 

Good deeds left undone can be a sin of omission, in which case repentance is appropriate. But every Christian is not called to do every good work. Discerning between a sin of omission and a closed door of opportunity is a matter of wisdom and your conscience. 

In my case, I am confident in my conviction that I did not sin. I had a baby the day Governor Wolf declared a state of emergency. I was physically recovering, barely sleeping, and parenting my toddler. While serving the neighbors outside my home would have been a good thing to do, there was plenty of service and self-sacrifice to be done for the tiny neighbors in my own home. Nevertheless, I regret leaving so much undone.

The good news of the gospel is that, in Christ, you are already as loved and valued by God as you possibly could be. You don’t need to seize every opportunity, do the most good deeds, or be your best self to impress him or earn status in his eyes. Because God is already pleased with you, you can be gentle to your own heart. In a pandemic-themed issue of ByFaith Magazine, Kelly M. Kapic encourages discouraged believers to apply God’s kindness to themselves.

On the other hand, the gospel also frees us to do more and sacrifice more, because we follow a Lord who sacrificed all the way to death, then proved by his resurrection that even dying is only a stepping stone to glory.

In Christ, I am released from guilt over opportunities not taken. And, while I can’t repeat the last eight months, it’s not too late to love my neighbors.

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Links for the Weekend (11/13/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

No Blank Slate Christianity

Jared Wilson has written a great encouragement not to believe a “half-gospel.” Too many people, he says, know about the forgiveness of sins but forget (or do not know) about the imputed righteousness of Christ.

The doctrine of imputation gives the Christian the right kind of confidence. Because your faith is counted as righteousness (Rom. 4:5), you don’t have to “pay back” what Christ purchased for me (as if you ever could anyway!). You don’t have to earn credit with God. He has freely given Jesus’ sinless perfection to you as if it was your own. Now you can obey God freely and with joy, knowing you’ve been set free from the condemnation of the law. This is hugely confidence-building, as it destroys any pride we might have in our own obedience and strengthens our reliance on Christ’s obedience on our behalf.

How to Read the News Wisely

Scott Slayton has some good advice about how Christians can consume the news.

We could spend all day reviewing the glories that are coming to those who are in Christ and we need to look at the daily news in light of these overwhelming realities. This doesn’t mean that healthcare, abortion, social justice, and civil liberties don’t matter, instead, it reframes how we think about these issues. If we don’t get justice in this world, we know that ultimate justice is coming. If our opportunities for a comfortable retirement are declining, we remember that we look forward to something much better than retirement. Our great future hope changes the way that we look at everything.

Podcast: Wisdom Gained by Walking Together

Here’s an episode of the podcast from the PCA’s Women’s Ministry about friendship and mentoring relationships. For those feeling the weight of isolation and strained relationships this year, this may be an encouraging help.


Thanks to Maggie A for her help in gathering links this week.

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (3/6/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Confessions of a Recovering Political Idolater

About 20 years ago, Jared Wilson realized he had an idolatry problem. The way he paid attention to politics was unhealthy, and it was not honoring to God. I commend this article to you, because Jared talks about his repentance in ways that are specific and helpful (whether your idolatry problem is with politics or with something else).

My repentance consisted of a few practical things. I swore off all cable news, realizing how much the constant bombardment of news both real and speculative was eroding my joy and buttressing my anxiety. In the twenty years since, I haven’t watched but a handful of hours, usually when at other people’s homes when it is the background noise of choice. But other habits die harder. Here are some symptoms of my ailment I need to stay in constant vigilance about. Maybe you do too.

Marriage Was Never Supposed to Fill the Empty Spaces

Sometimes God uses hard situations to teach us important lessons. Lauren Washer has found herself in just such a situation, apart from her husband while he is deployed in the military. She’s learning a lot about trusting God and the design of marriage during this hard season.

Yes, he’s helpful, trustworthy, and loves me enough to be honest, rebuke me, and walk me through my struggles.  His wisdom is invaluable and I’m a better person having been married to him for the past thirteen years.  But he’s not God.  And try as I might to make my marriage relationship fill my soul, it never will.  Neither will anything else.

No Condemnation

Kristen Wetherell writes about her sense of inadequacy, the way she wonders if she’s disappointing God. She shares two questions she asks herself in those moments. I’m guessing these will be helpful for you, too.

Rather than buckling under the dark cloud of condemnation and listening to your fears, you can speak back to them. You can confidently confess your need for a Savior––”Jesus, I need you!”––and desperately seek him for change. His grace wasn’t just for the moment you believed by faith, but is for each and every moment of faith, for your every failure and every need.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

How to Resist Sins of Conformity

We’ve all been there. You’re cruising on the interstate and you take a casual glance at your speedometer. Whoa—you were NOT prepared for that!

How did this happen?

You were in the flow of traffic, going along with the crowd. Your speeding probably won’t lead to a ticket, but any police officer who stopped you would be justified. You were flat-out guilty.

What is a Sin of Conformity?

Many sins in our lives follow this pattern. We get swept along in the tide and can’t believe what we’ve done. We’re always responsible for our actions, but sometimes social pressure tempts us in powerful ways.

Sins of conformity happen when, because of the pressure to fit in, you adopt the sinful action or inaction of a group. Active sins in this category include gossip, coarse language, and spending above your means. (This is just a sample.) Sins of omission show up too—prayerlessness, failing to care for the poor, and failing to evangelize can be epidemic in churches.

An Incremental Slide

With good intentions, how can we end up with such rotten behavior?

The answer, as always, is our hearts. Though a Christian’s heart is being transformed by God, the old man lurks. He tempts us with empty promises and false treasures.

Most people crave the approval and acceptance of their peers. To secure this love, we adopt the practices, preferences, and values of our social group.

This happens by increments. Few people wake up one morning determined to gossip about a coworker. But after weeks of indulging office chatter, we slide from tolerating to agreeing with to participating in the sin.

Waking Up

In his mercy, God alerts us to sins of conformity in one of three ways.

Sometimes, God convicts us supernaturally. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the damage we’re doing to ourselves and others.

Other times we see a righteous example. A “slow” car in our lane obeys the speed limit, or an officemate speaks up for the slandered.

Finally, we might be confronted with our sin. A godly friend rebukes us for inappropriate joking or an audit uncovers dishonest use of money at work. Though it might seem severe, God can use the consequences of our sin to bring us to repentance.

Gospel Power

Even when you’re convicted about a sin of conformity, it can be hard to stop. Refusing the sin means resisting the social pressure that makes the temptation powerful. How will you handle upsetting the group?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the key. We all want to be liked and included, and if you’re a Christian, you are! You are a child of God, eternally a member of his family. Because Jesus was excluded for a time on the cross, you are loved and welcomed in the best way imaginable. Though your repentance may displease your friends, be confident that God is pleased with you. All the favor and approval you want from other people, you have in your sovereign, loving, heavenly father.

Avoiding These Sins

Though we think of peer pressure mostly for adolescents, sins of conformity are present in all social groups. Repenting of these sins is one matter, but how can we avoid them?

  1. Pray. Pray that God will sharpen your conscience and make you aware of your weaknesses, your temptations, and the group pressures you face. Pray for the Spirit’s help to stand firm in the gospel.
  2. Read the Bible. The Scriptures replace the loud, urgent messages of our peers with the eternal truths of God’s law and his love.
  3. Nurture close friendships. You need at least one person in your life who can—and will—ask you anything. He knows your struggles and tendencies, and you can talk honestly with him about your wider social circles. Sin is deceptive, so we must have devoted friends with whom we speak regularly and deeply about the most important things in life.

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You Are Not a Number

tape measures

It’s 2019, so we can track and measure almost anything. These numbers we generate are simple, stark, and memorable. They stick with us for days, relentlessly patting us on the back or poking us in the ribs. Numbers are brain worms.

And while we can use numbers to describe aspects of our life, they are snapshots. Numbers cannot capture the most important information about us.

Not a Number

When we fixate on measurements, we usually boil our efforts down to failure or success. This number is too low; that one is finally high enough.

We’re easily consumed, thinking that one good or bad datum paints a complete picture. But we must shake off that thinking like a dog after his mud-puddle bath. Enjoy this freedom: you are not a number.

You are not your salary. You are not the balance in your retirement account. You are not your credit card balance or your credit score. You are not your net worth.

You are not your IQ, your standardized test score, your GPA, or your class rank. You are not the number of degrees you’ve earned.

You are not the number of people that attended your most recent meeting, event, or party.

You are not the number of points on your driver’s license. You are not the number of felonies you’ve committed or warrants out for your arrest. You are not your number of parking or speeding tickets.

You are not the number of miles you’ve run, the weight you can lift, or the calories you’ve burned/consumed. You are not the number of steps you’ve taken, the number of hours you’ve slept, or your body fat percentage. You are not your height, waist size, or dress size. You are not your weight.

You are not your number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers. You are not the size of your address book. You are not the number of emails you sent or received today. You are not the number of likes/shares your social media post received.

You are not the number of books you’ve read, awards you’ve won, or promotions you’ve received. You are not the number of books/articles you’ve published, the number of conference presentations you’ve given, or the number of times your work is cited. You are not the number of people you supervise.

You are not the number of your children, grandchildren, or divorces.

You have a number associated with each measurement on this list. Perhaps this number is known only to you. Whether that number represents success, failure, or something in between, you are not that number.

What Defines Us?

The most important question of our lives is not numerical but categorical: Have you been reconciled with God?

Reconciliation with God only happens through Jesus Christ. You cannot score well enough on any scale to earn God’s approval.

If you don’t know God, perhaps you’ve never thought about reconciling with him. But your sin offends God, and you deserve his wrath. The defining measurement in your life is your distance from God, and it is infinite.

But there is time! Right now, God is calling you. Confess your sins, trust in Jesus, and come into his family. (Watch a video explanation of this good news here, and find a longer, written introduction to Christianity here.)

If you have been reconciled with God, this is your new identity: child of God, beloved in heaven, destined for paradise, protected by the Father, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, welcome before the King. No bad score or sub-par measurement can decrease God’s love for you.

An important number is attached to this new identity: zero. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38,39).

Many numbers can describe our obedience or encourage our perseverance. Let’s instead fix our minds on the truth of God’s faithfulness to his numerous people.


This is a lightly edited version of an article that originally ran here.

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